World Maternal Mental Health Day 2024

*Trigger warning. Post-natal depression, miscarriage and birth trauma. This blog contains information about post-natal depression, miscarriage and birth trauma which some readers might find triggering. Please take this into consideration before continuing to read.

According to the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, 1 in 5 women experience a perinatal mental health problem and 70% will hide or underplay maternal mental health difficulties. This is why we need to provide safe spaces for women to share their experiences, and ensure the right support, treatment and resources are in place, to help women before, during and after pregnancy to recover and enjoy being a parent.

This World Maternal Mental Health Day, Water Babies mum Rebecca bravely shares her personal journey with post-natal depression and motherhood with us, providing advice on what’s worked for her to hopefully inspire others who are struggling.

My pregnancy journey

Hi! My name is Rebecca and my daughter is called Estella, born 19th December 2022 (16 months old). It’s safe to say Estella is absolutely mad – she’s been on the go since day one! Symptom wise, my pregnancy was actually really easy going. I was lucky, and didn’t feel sick at all, never felt nauseous, and I didn’t really experience cravings.

This changed at around 25 weeks when I started to suffer from Sciatica in my left leg, thighs and lower back. At the time, I put this down to being a dog groomer, as I was working 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, along with every other weekend. But looking back, there were a lot of things that happened in my life while I was pregnant which I now know have contributed towards my mental health.

I had an early miscarriage before I finally fell pregnant with Estella, so when I found out I was pregnant I had a lot of conflicting emotions, and it took a few days for it to really sink in. I told myself I would do it all right this time, eat healthy, drink lots of water, stay calm, do yoga etc. but life had other plans. We were moving house further away from my home town at the same time, but before moving in, we were completely gutting it and renovating. This caused me a lot more stress than I anticipated.

As well as this, we were also planning our wedding. While I already had my wedding dress picked out, I was now panicking about fitting into it after the baby was born. And to top it all off, I was closing down my business which I had worked so hard for over the 9 years I had it. I had lots of support around me, but I felt broken and lost once I closed the business down.

My birthing experience

Estella ended up being 14 days overdue. I told myself throughout the pregnancy, and the two years leading up to it, I would never have an induction as I wanted to do it all as naturally as possible. Although I expected I would need the good stuff once I was in the hospital, I wasn’t prepared to be told some of the scary things from both the midwives and the people around me, so I decided to accept the induction.

We went in on the Friday night, and within minutes of being induced they had to rush me down to the emergency room because they had lost the baby’s heartbeat. The midwife said I could potentially have the baby there and then, however, when we got in the room they stopped the induction and found the heartbeat again. So I was taken back up to the normal ward, still as pregnant as can be.

I stayed in hospital over the weekend, hoping my waters would break naturally…but they didn’t. So on the Sunday night, they broke my waters for me and put me on a hormonal drip. This wasn’t something I wanted, but felt I had no choice. The contractions were intense once they got going and I couldn’t take it. The pain was relentless with no breaks between contractions. Due to this, I had an epidural, which ended up causing more problems than it solved, with lots of faffing and then the baby’s heart rate dropping below 20. The next thing I know there’s 10 people rushing in and taking me to theatre for an emergency C-section. The mental health doctor has since told me it’s likely I suffered from birth trauma due to all of this, which has contributed towards my post-natal depression.

Becoming a new mum

I was desperate to breast-feed Estella, but unfortunately this didn’t work out and I blamed myself for it. When it finally came to the point of giving up trying, I was not prepared at home to bottle feed at all. I had nothing sterilised, no milk powder ready, and no idea what I was doing. My husband didn’t have an idea either, but he has been an absolute legend to have day in and day out! It felt like it was so simple, but our minds just wouldn’t work. I think I cried for about 3 weeks straight after having Estella and I know I had some big blow ups and lots of tears for months after, as I refused to get the help. The Health Visitor did extra meetings with me, but I hid my depression so well she signed me off. I should never have hidden how I was feeling from her, and if I hadn’t I might have received help a lot earlier.

I felt very alone as a new mum. I wasn’t alone but I felt like it. My body was unrecognisable, I had gone from 10st to 15st and I couldn’t get my head around the change. I tried joining baby groups but I never felt welcome. It was all very cliquey and uncomfortable. I kept telling myself ‘I’m here for my baby not for me’ when in reality, you are there for yourself too. As a chance to get out of the house and be around other mothers. But they would all go for coffees together and completely ignore me. I had my brother-in-law’s wife to see for a while as she had a baby 6 months before we had Estella, but she had her own friends and their little baby group which was lovely to see, but I had nobody in the area to meet up with for company. This is when I decided to join Water Babies – and I am so glad I did.

Starting Water Babies

All the staff, parents and carers of the other babies were so welcoming and supportive of one another. We never made a group chat or went for coffee, but all of us got along so well together. Estella loves going to classes, yes we’ve had the water wobbles and I found it hard to keep myself together. But when you start to accept you have post-natal depression and stop to look around you, you notice you are really not alone.

Everyone has struggles somewhere with their baby or their self-confidence. Water Babies enabled me to bond with Estella in a way I had struggled to and I would always recommend the classes to people. Not only are we teaching our babies safety skills in and around water, but we are also building a bond like no other, as well as the strength to keep on going and regaining self-confidence.

We’ve been attending Water Babies lessons with Estella since she was around 12 weeks old. Teaching these skills is important for us as we go to our family’s apartment in Portugal a lot where there is a swimming pool outside, and although she would be watched, you just never know when something could happen.

My advice

To any new mum, dad or carer out there who is struggling with their baby and their mental health, I would really recommend trying Water Babies. The support you will receive and the care they provide during their lessons is unreal, for me it was exactly what I needed. I would also say don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from others. I put this off for so long and suffered a lot longer because I wouldn’t accept I had post-natal depression. It tore me away from being able to enjoy simple things, and what’s worse, it pushed me and my husband apart for so long. But now we are stronger than ever. I still have the odd bad day, but don’t we all?

Now there are so many other things that happened to contribute towards my depression and if anyone wanted to ask me any questions, have a coffee, I would be more than willing to chat. Three things that helped me to get better though were:

  •  I joined a private gym, rather than a big chain gym, and made a routine to do kettlebells for an hour one evening, PT session for an hour another day and a circuits class for an hour another day. I have now got back down to just below 11st and never felt happier!
  • I joined Water Babies and stopped going to other baby groups.
  • I got the help I needed, yes from the doctors, but I found actually just really talking with my husband, friends and family about how I was feeling helped so much as well.

I want to end this with a big thank you to my husband, family, Kim at Water Babies Bristol, Bath and North Wiltshire and everyone else who has helped me through this, probably without even realising I was suffering in the first place.

There’s always people who can help when you need them. As well as family and friends, if you feel as though you’re struggling, speak to your Doctor, Midwife or your local Perinatal Mental Health Service who will be able to help you. You can also find guidance and support with The Maternal Mental Health Alliance -